For starters, the Twins have a new clubhouse and the front offices are now on site in what used to be the old visitors locker room. In previous years, the day-to-day operations ran out of the Elizabethton Parks and Recreation building. Of course, the Twins are now overseen by Boyd Sports, which does the same for the Johnson City Cardinals.
New general manager Brice Ballentine has ascended the ladder quickly during his nine seasons working in the minor leagues and is embracing his new position.
“It’s been phenomenal working with Boyd Sports,” he said. “These guys are like a dream to work for. They let you bounce off ideas and they know what works where and when. They want you to think outside of the box sometimes.”
The main thing that Ballentine wants Elizabethton to be is a “family-friendly” atmosphere, but to keep the winning tradition of the Twins going. Two traditions will certainly continue as both Ray Smith and Jeff Reed return to Northeast Community Credit Union Ballpark at Joe O’Brien Field in June.
“The way that the community embraces the Twins, it’s a huge deal,” Ballentine said. “I love how these fans want to come to the ballpark and have fun, but they want to be successful and they expect playoffs. We have a really strong fanbase here and we want to play off of that.”
The most notable change from this season to last will be the selling of beer at the stadium.
Consumers must be at least 21 years of age and will be limited as to how many drinks they may consume in a game.
“We have two points of sale for it. We’ll have wristbands and we’ll have all the precautions in place,” he said.
The new staff will also be introducing a lot of new promotions and giveaways, according to Ballentine. This will lead the Twins to that more friendly atmosphere.
“We’re doing a lot of on-field contests and we’re gearing it to be more ‘family-friendly.’ We’re doing more fireworks shows and bringing in more music than ever before. We want it to be a more fun atmosphere,” he said.
Some of the other tangible changes that are being made now are the re-sodding of the field after the high school season. The season begins on June 16, so there is not much time.
One of the final tangible changes is the presence of the mascot “Rookie” at every possible game and community event.
“Barring rain, I want the mascot out here interacting with the fans and I also want my staff out there doing the same thing,” he said.
WORKING WITH THE PARENT CLUB
The Minnesota Twins have had a rookie league team in Elizabethton since 1974 and have 12 league titles, which is the most for any minor league club during that time frame.
The parent club also currently leads the American League Central division by 10 games over the Cleveland Indians. The Twins also have the best record in baseball at 36-17 and are the first team in Major League history to have 100 home runs by the end of May.
Safe to say, it’s been easy working for an organization that has a tradition of winning.
“They are very good to work with,” Ballentine said. “They make my life easier. They've been very helpful since we’re new to this situation and they’ve been here a while. The communication is good. Whenever I need something, they get back to me and vice versa.”
Now that the city does not oversee the baseball operations, there will be a few new full-time staff that deals with specific baseball issues like ticket sales.
The city will still be involved, but mostly in the maintenance department. It will work best for both sides, and patrons will see operations run more smoothly.